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New Handbook Highlights Resources for Conservation on Organic Farms

Posted by Ben Bowell and Lindsay Haines, Natural Resources Conservation Service in Conservation
Feb 21, 2017
National Organic Farming Handbook cover
A new Handbook supports NRCS conservation planners and other agricultural professionals as they work with organic producers.

Consumer demand for organic products continues to grow. The Organic Trade Association that represents more than 8,500 organic businesses across 50 states reports that demand for organic products exceeded $39 billion in 2014. To meet that demand, more farmers and ranchers are pursuing organic certification and seeking assistance through USDA programs.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is making sure that its people in the field are prepared to work with organic producers and those who want to get into organics. The agency has just released to staff its new Organic Farming Handbook describing things they need to know when working with organic producers.

“I’m sure the NRCS staff in my county would have appreciated this information when I first started working with them,” says Jeff Eschmeyer, organic farmer and NRCS special assistant to the chief. “Organic producers use different practices and must follow USDA organic rules. This new handbook provides this critical information to our conservation planners and other ag-professionals who design practices for farmers and ranchers.”

The Organic Farming Handbook describes organic systems and identifies key resources to guide conservation planning and implementation on organic farms. Producers and other audiences may also find the handbook useful.

The handbook describes conservation practices and key resources for use on organic operations – some the same as those used in conventional operations – such as nutrient management, crop rotations, livestock grazing and pest management. The handbook includes additional practices and resources that address producers’ needs that are identified in USDA’s 2014 Organic Survey.

Though this information is specifically for conservation on organic operations, producers of all kinds can benefit from many of the practices in the handbook.

A team of NRCS staff and partner organizations from across the country developed the handbook. NRCS representatives ranged from those who work directly with producers in California and Indiana to its specialists in agronomy, soil health, wildlife biology, water quality, and other specialty areas. 

Partner organizations that brought their expertise to the handbook include the Black Family Land Trust, Carolina Farm Stewardship Association, Center for Rural Affairs, Florida Organic Growers, Midwest Organic & Sustainable Education Service, National Center for Appropriate Technology, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, Northwest Center for Alternative to Pesticides, Oregon Tilth, Virginia Biological Farming Association and Wild Farm Alliance.

For more information on NRCS assistance for organic producers and the NRCS Organic Farming Handbook, visit

Production Practices Used by Organic Farms, 2008 and 2014 chart
The Handbook describes a range of conservation practices and key resources for use on organic operations – some the same in conventional operations, some different -- such as nutrient management, crop rotations, livestock grazing and pest management.
Category/Topic: Conservation

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Nov 19, 2015

How to get a hardcopy of this booklet or book on Organic Farming. I am very interested in New England material as well.
Thank you!

Lita Sollisch
Nov 19, 2015

I'm interested in obtaining a copy of Organic Farming. To whom shall I send my request?


Dr. Godwin Chukwu
Nov 19, 2015

I shall be grateful to get a hard or soft copy of this important handbook. It will enhance my practice of organic agriculture and serve as a resource materials for teaching.

Ben Weaver
Nov 20, 2015

@Anne, Lita Sollisch, Dr. Godwin Chukwu and others - thank you for your interest! The book is filled with links to other websites, so it is intended to be viewed online. If a hard copy is desired, the pdf can be printed on demand.

@Anne - for assistance in New England, contact the NRCS New Hampshire Office:

Gabriel Acosta
Nov 20, 2015


Por favor de mandarme la liga o el contacto via internet para obtener el libro, ya que en México también estamos muy interesados en agricultura organica.


Luis M
Nov 27, 2015

How can I became a Organic Certificator? Where can I get the Organic License or Certification?

Ben Weaver
Nov 30, 2015

@Luis M - thanks for your comment. You can learn more about the certification process at Becoming a Certified Operation. The first step is to contact an certifying agent: List of Certifying Agents. Your agent will assist you with the process and answer any questions you might have. The USDA provides brief training modules, informational brochures, and guides to programs and services on our website at Our Organic 101 module takes about 15 minutes and covers the fundamentals of organic, and our Organic 201 module takes a closer look at our standards, system plans, and enforcement.

hekmat ollah
Nov 29, 2018

I'm interested in obtaining a copy of Organic Farming at green house.